James Mattis Resigning As Defense Secretary In Rebuke To Trump’s Policies
In what clearly appears to be a rebuke of the President, Defense Secretary James Mattis is retiring as Secretary of Defense.
As if all the other news breaking this week and today wasn’t enough, President Trump announced late today that Defense Secretary James Mattis will be ‘retiring’ in February, thus removing the last member of the foreign policy team that began the Trump Administration:
WASHINGTON — Jim Mattis, the four-star Marine general turned defense secretary, resigned on Thursday in protest of President Trump’s decision to withdraw 2,000 American troops from Syria, where they have been fighting the Islamic State.
Mr. Trump announced the resignation in two tweets Thursday evening, and said Mr. Mattis will leave at the end of February.
Officials said Mr. Mattis went to the White House on Thursday afternoon in a last attempt to convince Mr. Trump to keep American troops in Syria. He was rebuffed, and told the president that he was resigning as a result.
Hours later, the Pentagon released Mr. Mattis’ resignation letter, in which he implicitly criticized his commander in chief. Mr. Mattis said in the letter that he believes that the president deserves a defense secretary who is more in tune with his worldview.
“One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships,” Mr. Mattis wrote.
“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” he wrote.
His departure leaves the Trump administration without one of the few officials viewed as standing between a mercurial president and global tumult. The president said he would name Mr. Mattis’ replacement shortly.
The president’s tweets announcing the departure of his defense secretary shocked officials at the Pentagon, who as recently as Thursday afternoon were insisting that Mr. Mattis had no intention of resigning his post, despite his anger at Mr. Trump’s decision, announced on Wednesday, to withdraw American troops from Syria.
Mr. Mattis had told close friends that he would continue in the job despite his deteriorating relationship with Mr. Trump, because he viewed his commitment to protecting the Defense Department and its 1.3 million active duty service members as paramount.
The widely accepted narrative that Mr. Mattis was the adult in the room when at the White House came to annoy Mr. Trump. In October, the president accused Mr. Mattis of being a Democrat — a charge akin to treason in the current Republican administration.
“This is scary,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a tweet. He called Mr. Mattis “an island of stability amidst the chaos of the Trump administration.”
“As we’ve seen with the President’s haphazard approach to Syria, our national defense is too important to be subjected to the President’s erratic whims,” Mr. Warner wrote in the Twitter post.
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said on Twitter that Mr. Mattis’ resignation “is a real loss for our nation, our troops, and this Administration.”
More from The Washington Post:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned from the Trump administration Thursday, saying the president deserved someone atop the Pentagon who is “better aligned” with his views.
The retired Marine Corps general’s surprise resignation came a day after President Trump overruled his advisers, including Mattis, and shocked American allies by announcing he would be withdrawing American troops from Syria. Trump declared victory over the Islamic State, even though the Pentagon and State Department for months have been saying the fight against the group in Syria isn’t over.
The discord caused Trump to lose a Cabinet official who won widespread praise at home and abroad but who experienced increasing differences with the commander in chief he served as Trump’s presidency progressed.
Mattis said he would depart the administration Feb. 28 to provide time for a replacement to be identified and confirmed by the Senate.
Mattis pointed to some of those differences in a resignation letter he submitted to the White House on Thursday. The retired general emphasized that the United States derives its strength from its relationships with allies and should treat them with respect. He said the country must also be “clear-eyed” about threats including from groups such as the Islamic State.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” Mattis wrote. ”We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.”
The Pentagon released the letter moments after Trump announced on Twitter that Mattis would be leaving, saying the retired general would “retire.” Trump’s tweet made no mention of the fact that the Pentagon chief was leaving over his differences with the president.
Mattis’s departure adds to new uncertainty about which course the administration might take on its global challenges, including with Iran and North Korea, amid questions about the pending withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and a possible drawdown in Afghanistan.
The retired Marine general, 68, had repeatedly moved to reassure allies unnerved by Trump’s unpredictable pronouncements and argued successfully for continued U.S. commitments in Syria, Afghanistan and other places where military leaders see an ongoing threat.
Avoiding the spotlight and telegraphing deference, Mattis managed to contradict the president’s bombast and threats without drawing his ire. The bookish history buff quietly emphasized traditional American values even as Trump publicly questioned them.
But questions about Mattis’s influence grew as the president made decisions that deviated from his advice, such as pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran, relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israelto Jerusalem and launching a new Space Force that many military leaders saw as unnecessary and distracting.
More recently, Trump ordered Mattis to send active duty troops to the U.S. border with Mexico, a move Democrats criticized as a political stunt that undermined the defense secretary’s goal of making the military more effective in responding to foreign threats.
In recent months, media accounts described the secretary quietly challenging or setting aside requests from the White House, even from the president himself, further fueling speculation about a possible departure. In October, Trump described Mattis as “sort of a Democrat.”
Here are the President’s tweets on the matter:
General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my Administration as Secretary of Defense for the past two years. During Jim’s tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
….equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
While it isn’t unusual to see personnel changes at this point in a President’s Administration, the fact that the President is announcing this today, and that he announced it today of all days is hard not to notice. It was just yesterday, of course, that Trump announced, again via Twitter, that he had decided to withdraw American troops from Syria. That announcement was made, according to all available evidence, against the recommendation of all of Trump’s foreign and military policy advisers including Mattis. Additionally, earlier this afternoon CNN was reporting that Pentagon officials were already preparing for a similar announcement from the President with regard to American forces in Afghanistan, a move that many reporters have said would be the “last straw” for Mattis, who apparently has spent the better part of the last two years disagreeing with the President’s approach to a wide variety of issues, including things such as the cancelation of joint military exercises with South Korea, the President’s approach to Russia and China, and his treatment of American allies. Each of these subjects is referenced in Mattis’s letter of resignation, which doesn’t contain a single word of praise for the President, making it clear that the combination of all of these recent events is likely what led to the final straw for Mattis, and that what we’re witnessing here is Mattis quitting in protest rather than Trump firing him and rather than this being a simple decision on his part to retire and spend more time with his family. As a result, no matter how much goodwill we see in the coming weeks between Trump and Mattis as he prepares to leave, the fact that this is happening because of profound policy differences is far too obvious to be denied.p
It is hard to understate the importance of Mattis’s resignation. In addition to being the first real high-profile resignation from the Trump Administration over policy differences, his departure means the departure from the Administration of perhaps the last voice of stability and sanity on foreign policy and military matters left in the President’s orbit. That voice will now be silent and, more likely than not, replaced by someone who will largely serve as the same kind of “yes” man that Trump found in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, both of whom are men inclined to reinforce the President’s worldview rather than question them. Additionally, the circumstances under which Mattis is leaving, just a day after the announcement of a withdrawal from Syria and an apparently impending similar decision with regard to Afghanistan, are likely to make proceeding forward with both of those policies even more controversial than they already appear to be. This is even truer given the fact that he made the Syria decision in particular against the advice of Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While it’s obvious that there were several decisions the President had made regarding the Defense Department, including the ban on transgender troops, the creation of a so-called Space Force, and the decision to send troops to the southern border in response to the non-existent threat from a caravan of Central American migrants, it is clear that this last decision was, for better or worse, the straw that broke the camel’s back for Mattis, and that’s why he decided to resign at this time.
Here’s Secretary Mattis’s Letter of Resignation:
Jim Mattis Resignation Letter by on Scribd
Well, we can say Mattis is an honest man.
El Dennison will start talking crap about Mattis before he steps down.
How many generals has Trump gone through now? Four?
Three by my count. McMaster, Kelly, and now Mattis.
On and Flynn if you want to go back that far.
As some Twitter wit said, it’s a very polite accusation of treason.
Not from a Democrat. Not from some partisan like me. That’s from a four star Marine general considered to be one of the most capable military officers we have.
MAGAS need to start getting their heads straight about their boy, because he is losing his sht and there’s no hiding it any more. He’s flailing and he’s handing wins to our enemies because he does not know WTF he’s doing. He needs to go.
I’m pretty sure Trump didn’t read the letter. It’s one and one-quarter single-spaced pages long, and eight paragraphs, which is about seven more paragraphs than Trump can manage.
Kaili Joy grey joked on Twitter “generals who spent their entire lives in the military can’t handle two years of trump.”
I believe it was September 2016 when Trump said “I know more than the generals about ISIS.” He is acting on his beliefs. He is shutting down the government ahead of schedule starting with the Department of Defense. Some people think that Idiocracy is a movie pertinent to Trump, but I think that The Dark Knight with Trump as the Joker is more apropos.
Between the stock market, the shutdown and now Mattis, the wheels are definitely coming off the Trump bus. The only question is, how big will the crash finally be, and how far will the collateral damage spread.
Guess what happens three seconds after Mattis’ resignation takes effect? The House Armed Service and Intel committees call him to testify. Trump just re-opened the 25th Amendment debate.
There are a couple of audio clips of Mark Hamill reading two of Trump’s Tweets using the Joker’s voice. It’s eerily appropriate.
On that principle, Kevin Conroy ought to read Mattis’ letter.
The Joker, though, was way smarter than Trump.
You left out the best part: Trump said he knew more about ISIS than the generals because he watches “the shows.”
Spare me the faux concern and outrage. The generals want conflict. The military-industrial complex, and their bought and paid for pols, wants sales. You guys just want what you see as useful political outrage.
The real issue, and what a real blog would address, is whether continuing engagement serves US interests, particularly does this give too much leeway to Iran. ( and, heh, just a few weeks ago you all were ready to sell a villainous counterbalancing Saudi Arabia down the river. Hypocrites). Get ready, Afghanistan is next. Is continuing involvement warranted?
As for that last paragraph and yes men, that’s just mindless blather. Letting the generals, the Max Boots of the world, and military goods lobbyists run wild isn’t real foreign policy. It’s madness.
A more important question I think would be who is going to pick up the pieces.
Two days ago the Russians leaked the signed memo about trump tower moscow. Since then we’ve seen a surprise announcement of an immediate pullout from Syria. Just coincidence I’m sure.
Yesterday, everyone here was mostly sanguine about us leaving Syria — or at least no one jumped in with a rousing defense of staying in. I think Trump is doing this for all the wrong reasons (sucking up to Russia and the Turks, and change the news cycle), and I think he has not sold his cabinet on it, but it’s still probaby the right thing to do. He’s doing it incompetently, of course.
And, of course, it sucks to be the Kurds.
Mattis is right to step down if he has no faith in the president, and if he cannot get the president to take a more deliberate approach.
@Slugger: Some people think that Idiocracy is a movie pertinent to Trump, but I think that The Dark Knight with Trump as the Joker is more apropos.
I can honestly say that I would prefer President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho to president Trump any day of the week. He’s smarter, more honest and a harder worker.
I found this when I was searching for info on Idiocracy. Can you tell whether Trump or Camacho said each of the following?
1. “Remember, new ‘environment friendly’ light bulbs can cause cancer.”
2. “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created, I tell you that.”
3. “I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.”
4. “I beat China all the time. All the time.”
5. “If there is one word to describe Atlantic City, it’s Big Business. Or two words — Big Business.”
6. “Listen, you motherfuckers, we’re going to tax you 25 percent!”
7. “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop.”
8. “Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it!”
9. “So you’re smart, huh? I thought your head would be bigger. Looks like a peanut!”
Sad to say, Trump said # 1 – 8, Camacho only said #9.
A friend on Twitter pointed out, today Trump: signed a bloated farm bill, screwed over Congress by refusing to sign the CR like an infant, lost Mattis, tweeted a video of him singing green acre, feuded with Graham. Oh and the stock market fell 464 points to its lowest level in a year.
We may remember this day as when it all went from bad to worse. Call it the Thursday Night Trainwreck.
Hey, the Kurds are just a contractor Trump hired to beat ISIS.
The casino’s builtISIS is defeated (or so he’s declared) so now it’s time to stiff the contractor.
Really conflicted. Is it better to be at war in Syria, led by an idiot, or given that we’re led by an idiot, to not be at war in Syria.
Given his recent canonization let’s not forget that HW Bush also screwed over the Kurds.
A Democrat, of course. That’s how it is always done.
Obama cleaned up for George W
Clinton cleaned up for Reagan / Bush
Carter cleaned up for Nixon and Ford
Roosevelt cleaned up for Hoover & Coolidge
The only one that falls out of that pattern is Kennedy following Eisenhower, but I think that it can easily be said that by today’s standards, Eisenhower would have qualified as a Democrat. Ike had his time, and Kennedy easily defeated the GOP’s new star: Nixon.
“…..and so I arrive and Roberts got this band with 5-6 guitar players going. And I say to myself, well I think I can handle all that myself……”
In the context of the Mattis resignation, Michael Moore just said on MSNBC, “The only question about Trump is do we try him as an adult.”
You misspelled “continued their decade-long policy of raising taxes, cutting spending and encouraging free trade”.
@Guarneri: That’s “Black Dog” not “Mad Dog”, but I won’t object to any Zeppelin.
You bought a ticket on the Titanic.
Just went to Fox news. care to guess what the topic was? “A new report on Hillary Clinton’s dirty dossier.”
They think their audience is a bunch of idiots, and who am I to judge.
@Unamerican: what do Chuck and Nancy have to do with this?
I mean, presumably the house will investigate the decision making process, as it’s a sudden change of direction poorly communicated and has led to Mattie’s resigning, but that won’t happen for a month or so.
The Trumpkins appear to be divided on this. Some are upset Mattis is gone; others are saying good riddance to the sleazy swamp-dwelling Deep State traitor.
The funniest ones are those calling Trump”classy” and Mattis “low rent.”
I know people who idolized Mattis…until yesterday. It’s just so cultish and creepy, this instant flip from “Mad Dog Mattis, awesome!” to “We have always been at war with James Mattis.”
Indeed. And they don’t appear to be in the least aware of their inconsistency. That’s probably one of the reasons why they slobber over Trump: They’re just like him.
@Guarneri: The OTB crowd gives exactly one fuck about nothing at all, including that they contradict themselves at least as much as the man they hate with such intensity.
@One American :
They…. haven’t started yet – you *do* know their new roles don’t kick in for a few weeks, right? This clusterf^ck is happening when Repubs still have complete control of all 3 branches, including a President clearly acting on fees-fees daytime TV hurt when they called him an
emasculated cucksad sad man pushed around by “Chuckie and Nancy” .
But hey, when the Senate y’all control screws you over, remember it’s not Mitchie’s fault but whomever FOX tells you!!!
What’s Donald Rumsfeld up to these days, I wonder?
But there’s no way Dennison would pick him. he’s not that stupid. he knows you can’t have two Donalds on the same administration.
Your bitter, self-pitying, misogynist, incel Bernie Bro act is getting very tired, Ben. I’m sorry you don’t get to be the smartest guy in the room. Maybe you should think about growing up? Just a thought.
As usual, I think Larison is spot on:
It’s entirely possible to think that we should be out of Syria AND that Mattis was the best of a lot of bad options (in so much as it appears he curved Trump in other areas) AND that history shows that whoever replaces him is going to be much worse.
And considering the role, and the other people Trump has surrounded himself with who influence Military policy (i.e. Pompeo and Bolton), that’s a scary thought.
The how is important. A competent president would have started by getting the Turks to lay off massacring our brave Kurdish allies. A competent president would have consulted with the allies, like France, who came to this fight in the belief that they had a reliable big brother. A competent president wouldn’t be so desperately insecure he’d push out the one cabinet member anyone outside of the Trump cult had any faith in. And a patriot would not take his marching orders from Putin and Erdogan.
Without a doubt, the how is critical. I do think we tend to be overly conservative on the hows (relative to the overall costs of staying in these areas).
All that said, I don’t remotely trust this administration to get the “how’s” right.
And frankly, I’m really concerned about what will happen if the next SoD is far more receptive towards more direct confrontation with Iran or North Korea (i.e. more in line with Bolton and Pompeo’s positions — not to mention Trumps).
Unless Mueller has incontrovertible evidence that Trump …. Russia (we all know the deal) … there is no chance Trump will be tossed from office before the 2020 elections. The only possible mitigating factor would be if congressional Republicans collectively decide that they’ve got most of what they wanted and they’re ready to occasionally oppose Trump .
This is it, we’re stuck with this grifter for 2 more years.
God help us, then.
You know what else is getting very tired? The string of adjectives you deploy on anyone who dares to disagree with the insult king.
I only agree with Ben sometimes, but I value his perspective all the time. You know why? Because it’s different from mine.
@Hal_10000: “Oh and the stock market fell 464 points to its lowest level in a year.”
The Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial page of the Pulitzer Prize-winning business paper ‘The Wall Street Journal’ used a 2-year gap when judging the economic effects of a president (i.e., it takes 2 years for the President to alter the course of a vast economy).
By that standard, Trump can and should be judged on the economy starting in January, 2017. I believe that the stock market is now down to about January’s level. This means that the net effect of Trump on the stock market is zero, with a strong downward trend.
Yes…that is a discussion that is warranted.
Your Dear Leader didn’t have that discussion. He decided unilaterally to do what Putin and Erogan want him to do.
He abandoned our allies.
He doesn’t have a foriegn policy. He has a twitter account and an aderall addiction.
He is incompetent.
Thus the rage.
You want respect, Pearce? Do the fcking work. See all these other people here? They do the work. You don’t. You can’t be bothered.
Lots of people here disagree with me. Ever see me attack @grumpy realist or @kathy or @Kylopod or @Gustopher or or @DeStijl or @wr or any number of other people too numerous to list, who have disagreed with me on issues? No. You know why? Because they do their fcking work. They make the effort to inform themselves, to think, to reason, to try and find the truth. I value those people because they are my (uncompensated) teachers. But you, Pearce, you’re just lazy and you want to get the same grade as the kids who did their homework and read the assigned text. You’re an intellectual gold brick.
Now, that’s not my complaint with Ben. Ben is very intelligent and well-educated. But Ben has decided to wedge his excellent brain into a box formed by ideology, and because of that he punches way below his weight. You’re just a lazy Cliff Claven, Ben is a guy who is wasting a gift. See, I don’t ever wish I had whatever is going on in your head, but I’d love to have Ben’s education and his analytical ability in certain areas. I suspect in the end Ben will be fine. He just needs some years and some miles to knock the self-pity and random misdirected rage out of him. Probably just needs to meet the right girl – that’s certainly what I needed and fortunately got. But even time doesn’t cure lazy.
I support pulling out of Syria and Afghanistan, but I don’t support doing it because I hate smug coastal liberal elites. You guys are led around by your idiotic inferiority complexes. It’s so obvious and pathetic, and after two years of Trump no one gives a shit about being polite.
Mattis, by the way, was the usual military operator–not only linked to war crimes in Fallujah but somehow freaking Theranos. But you know what? He may have been the last adult in the White House, responsible for keeping us from bombing North Korea or starting a war with Iran. Both of which you would support in a second if the liberals in your head were making fun of you.
@Modulo Myself: I read the book on theranos. Mattis was just a big name that Liz Holmes had access to. He didn’t know what was up. remarkably few people who worked inside the company had any idea the fraud that was going on.
@Gustopher: Moreover, Chuck will still be minority leader and Mitch is the one “off to an impressive
And yet, that’s what Mattis’ letter states that he both needs and is entitled to. We’re stuck with this dog and pony show for 2 more years or til the GOP is either dead or sane. Probably dead.
You’re over here saying “You’re just a lazy Cliff Claven” and then you want me to grovel before you flagellating myself for your pleasure to earn your respect?
I don’t need your respect. I have plenty of my own.
Trump sided with erdogan
Pompeo: call erdogan
Erdogan: we’re going to attack the Kurds and want you to get out.
All Trump advisors: nonononono we can’t abandon the Kurds, or at least give them time to prepare.
Trump: nope we’re getting out now
Mattis: fuck All this
Given that Kennedy won the popular vote by about 100,000 votes, carried only 22 states (granted the most populous) it is disingenuous to say that Kennedy easily beat Nixon. Granted the electoral vote totals make it appear to be a landslide.
AP story this morning detailing the conversation between Erdogen and Trump. Erdogen in trying to convince Trump to step aside while Turkey slaughters the Kurds, he pointed out that Trump had said that he would withdraw when ISIS was defeated and that they essentially were. When Trump announced the US would pull out of Syria, Erdogen began arguing for the US to stay.
Expect the slaughter of the Syrian Kurds to start soon. I wonder if Erdogen will also attack the Iraqi Kurds.
So he wasn’t paid off (I’m stunned), but it’s still all about money for El Cheeto.
This is the realpolitik version of stiffing your contractors after the job is done. Why pay them, or keep paying them, if they’ve already delivered? Except this time the contractors are also going to get killed, and Trump doesn’t give a damn.
@Barry: it’s actuall down to August, 2017 level